Bush Will Meet With Shiite And Sunni Leaders
Although it is about a year too late, at least the White House is engaging directly with the locals in Iraq.
President Bush will meet with one of Iraq's most powerful Shiite politicians on Monday in a continued bid to find a new approach to ending sectarian violence that is pulling at the seams of the nation. Then, in January, the president will meet with the Sunni vice president of Iraq, a senior administration official said Friday.
On Monday, Bush will meet with Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of the United Iraqi Alliance -- the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe.
Bush is ignoring al-Sadr and trying to split the Shiites by meeting with the pro-Iranian al-Hakim, who controls the Badr Corps, which is the primary rival to al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. And if it looks like Bush is pushing for a Shiite-Shiite internal struggle for power at the same time his administration is thinking of walking away from reconciliation efforts aimed at the Sunnis, you are correct. In fact, as Juan Cole notes, Bush is seemingly doing what is necessary to plunge the whole region into a cold war between the pro-American Arab states on the one side (Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Kuwait) and the Tehran-Damascus axis on the other, at a time when Jim Baker is recommending that Bush talk directly with those countries.
Next month, Bush will meet with a Sunni leader -- Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, according to a senior administration official who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity. The Sunni leader has said that he wants to see al-Maliki's government dissolved and replaced with a new coalition with guarantees that ensure collective decision-making.
We presume that Bush told al-Maliki yesterday that he was going to meet directly with folks who wanted to see his government dissolved. And perhaps al-Maliki has noticed that Iyad Allawi has decided to relocate from London to Amman.